So You Had a Protective Order Filed Against You…Now What?
If you have been served with a Protective Order, you should have a lot of questions that need answers. You also have some choices. It is critically important to understand the choices that you have and the potential consequence of those choices. If a finding of Domestic Abuse is entered against you by the court it will be a PERMANENT PUBLIC RECORD. If you consent to an order, without a finding being made by the court, the order will be a public record. You will only be able to shield the record from public inspection after a period, and it may require the consent of the “victim”. You should be completely informed before you decide how to proceed, and certainly, before you appear in court!
As the Respondent (the person who is accused of the abuse), you need to understand the basics of what a Protective Order is, how it works, and how you should respond.
Understanding A Protective Order
A Protective Order in Maryland is an order issued by a court that is intended to help protect a person from domestic violence, domestic abuse, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault. The statute is actually intended to protect people from domestic “abuse”, it is not limited to physical violence.
The statutory definition of domestic abuse is:
“Abuse” means any of the following acts:
- an act that causes serious bodily harm
- an act that places a person eligible for relief in fear of imminent serious bodily harm
- assault in any degree
- rape or sexual offense under §§ 3-303 through 3-308 of the Criminal Law Article or attempted rape or sexual offense in any degree
- false imprisonment; or
- stalking under § 3-802 of the Criminal Law Article.
If the person for whom relief is sought is a child, “abuse” may also include abuse of a child, as defined in Title 5, Subtitle 7 of this article. Nothing in this subtitle shall be construed to prohibit reasonable punishment, including reasonable corporal punishment, in light of the age and condition of the child, from being performed by a parent or stepparent of the child.
If the person for whom relief is sought is a vulnerable adult, “abuse” may also include abuse of a vulnerable adult, as defined in Title 14, Subtitle 1 of this article.
Protective Order Process
The Protective Order process begins with the alleged victim of domestic violence/abuse filing a Petition for Protection from Domestic Violence with the court in the County where the violence or abuse allegedly occurred. In the petition, the victim must allege circumstances that meet the definition of domestic abuse as set forth in the statute. The petition is filed with either District or Circuit Court. Once filed with the court, a hearing conducted within hours. The hearing is ex parte, meaning the accused is not present to defend themselves. If the court finds that the allegations satisfy the definition of domestic abuse, a temporary order is immediately issued and a hearing is set in. the court then issues a summons and forwards the summons, along with a copy of the original petition and temporary protective order to the Sheriff to serve on the accused.
If an order for protection from domestic abuse is issued against you, you will most likely be served by a Sheriff when you arrive home. There will be several documents that you are served with. The documents will include a copy of the petition. The petition contains a description of the alleged abuse. The documents will notify you of the dates and times of a hearing. In some cases, there could be multiple hearings to attend, depending on whether the order was filed during a time that the courts were closed or open.
Keep in mind that being served with a Protective Order does not mean that you are being arrested or charged with a crime. Protective Order hearings are not criminal cases, so you are not entitled to a public defender.
However, just because a Protective Order is not a criminal case, does not mean that it is not extremely serious. It creates a public record that can only be hidden some of the time. In other words, it can create a permanent public record.
Time Is Crucial
Protective Order hearings usually happen within one week after the temporary order being issued provided the Sheriff was able to serve the respondent. So, if the Sheriff serves you after 6 days, you may have just one day to prepare for the hearing. Acting quickly to speak with an attorney is often your best choice. While having an attorney is not required to defend yourself in court, making a mistake could result in a Protective Order that is in place for a year or longer in some cases. In addition, anything you say at a Protective Order hearing in court is admissible evidence and could lead to further investigation and criminal charges potentially
What Not To Do
If you are facing a petition of a Protective Order in Maryland, then you should not
- Try to talk with or communicate with the Petitioner even through a third party. This means you can not ask a friend to call the petitioner and relay a message
- You should not speak with the Petitioner’s attorney (if he or she has one) on your own
- Destroy any evidence that you think might hurt you, which may lead to criminal charges.
- Disobey or Violate the Protective Order in any way
We Can Help You Make a Plan to Defend Against Your Protective Order
For more than thirty (30) years, Pare & Associates (formerly the Law Office of Alice Pare) has helped clients throughout Montgomery County and all of Maryland defend themselves against Protective Order. We have worked with men and women and understand not only the legal details but also how the situation could impact you in other areas (divorce, criminal, etc.).
Contact us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation. We are available for phone, online, or in-person meetings.